Sofonisba Anguissola (ca. 1530 - 1625)
Self-Portrait Playing the Spinet
Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy
Christine de Pizan (1364 – c.1430) was Italian born, but moved to France during her childhood when her father took a position at the French Royal Court. A royal atmosphere provided the young Christine the opportunity to educate herself with top scholarly resources. As an adult she married young and was widowed 10 years later leaving her as the sole provider for herself and her children. She took to her pen, becoming the court writer for Charles VI of France.
Pizan’s greatest literary achievement was “The Book of the City of Ladies”. It was a
feminist piece(kind of, she was out to prove men were wrong, so not truly feminist in the definition from the contemporary movement of the twentieth century…) written in response to the popular, poor, portrayal of women in the literature of her society. Its purpose was to promote greater equality among the sexes and a better reputation for women in society. It is structured in dialogue format between two individuals, an influence from Boccaccio’s work and is separated into three parts, each part a visit from one of the three Virtues to Pizan.
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies
(Trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards)
Fede Galizia, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1596 (details with the artist’s signature) x
I live on this depraved and lonely cliff
like a sad bird abhorring a green tree
or splashing water. I move forcefully
away from those I love, and I am stiff…
This is a friendly reminder that Kathryn Howard was an uneducated teenage girl who had been raised in relative poverty in the countryside alongside other, equally uneducated young women whose goals in life likely began and ended with finding a decent husband to support them.
This is a reminder that she had neither a mother nor father to look after her.
This is a reminder that was thrust by her ambitious family into a world that was completely foreign to her and used as a pawn to gain favor with the king, who, when he married her, was more than twice her age, mentally unstable, morbidly obese, and increasingly physically unwell, and had already been married four times.
This is a reminder that Kathryn loved the splendor and amusements of the court, and loved the gifts showered upon her, as would most teenage girls, especially if they never had anything to call their own before.
This is a reminder that mostly, the orphaned Kathryn probably wanted someone to care about her and pay attention to her in a meaningful, human way (not just by throwing jewels and gowns at her), and that that’s okay.
This is a reminder that even if she was “guilty” of what she was accused of, her own family ultimately set her up for disaster. Anne Boleyn had already suffered death at Henry VIII’s hand; Kathryn, a naive, teenaged country girl was far more vulnerable than her older, better-educated, politically savvy cousin.
So before you slut-shame her or suggest that she “deserved” what she got, consider that she was probably a seventeen- to nineteen-year-old girl who was being executed by a tyrannical madman who saw women as possessions and baby factories rather than as human beings.
17 days of Catherine de Medici: Day Two
The marriage of Catherine de Medici and the future Henry II of France was called ‘the greatest match in the world' by the bride's uncle Pope Clement VII, who greatly desired this marriage and told the French envoy to Rome that, “his niece was not worthy of so lofty an alliance ( as she lacked royal blood) but ready nevertheless, for every sacrifice and any concession to secure it.” Those words would prove prophetic as Catherine was eclipsed by Henry’s mistress Diane de Poitiers during the duration of the marriage.
Leonie Frieda describes Catherine’s official entry into Marseilles in Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France:
On 23 October 1533 Catherine officially entered Marseilles, riding a roan horse decked out in gold brocade. She was preceded by six horses, five caparisoned in scarlet and gold, and one grey charger in silver cloth led by her cousin Ippolito’s pages. Wearing an outfit of gold and silver silk, Catherine’s appearance did not disappoint the crowd. A fine horsewoman and brilliantly dressed, she made a striking impression.Among her train rode twelve ‘demoiselles’ with a royal and papal guard…..In the audience chamber at the Pontiff’s temporary palace, Francis I stood nearby with Henry and his younger brother Charles as Catherine made a deep curtsy to Clement and knelt to kiss the Pontiff’s feet. This humble gesture pleased the French King who lifted the young girl to her feet, kissed her and bade both his sons do likewise.
Frieda describes the religious ceremony that took place the morning after the signing of the marriage contract:
Catherine wore ducal robes of golden brocade with a violet corsage of velvet encrusted with gems and edged with ermine. Her hair had been neatly dressed with precious stones and upon her head sat a ducal crown of gold given her by Francis. The nuptial Mass took place in the chapel of the Pope’s palace; the bride and groom exchanged rings and vows. Catherine was now a royal duchess of France.
Hair of Mary Tudor in a gold locket
Engraved on the back: ‘Hair of Mary Tudor Queen of France cut from her head Sep 6 1784 when her tomb at St Edmundsbury was opened H.W.’
↪ Roxane Mesquida as young Anne Boleyn
♛ Niece of the Duke Of Norfolk, she was the daughter of an ambitious father and was sent to the French royal court at seven to be educated with the French royal children. She later became one of the most educated women of her day, and spoke four languages. She became a maid of honour to the Queen at thirteen, a great honour, and played musical instruments at court. She left in 1521, because England and France were on the verge of war, and in 1526, she became a maid of honour to Queen Catherine. She was popular at court, intelligent, musical, with a wealth of knowledge that came from the French court. Although some contemporaries did not think of her as particularly attractive, there was no doubt she was alluring, and became a favourite of Henry VIII. Henry had wanted to divorce Catherine before he met Anne, and Anne encourage him to replace Catherine with herself. In summer 1526, Henry wrote Anne many sexual love letters, and she replied to none. She made it clear to Henry that she would not be his mistress, and only would sleep with him if he married her. Anne was also opinionated about religion; she wanted Bibles to be published in English, supported William Tyndale, and encouraged Henry’s belief that a King should have authority above the church. In 1532, Anne began to sleep with him, deciding that if she became pregnant he would marry her. When she fell pregnant in 1533, Henry did marry her so the child would not be illegitimate. Henry broke with Rome in 1534, for a number of reasons, but also because the Pope condemned his marriage to Anne Boleyn. She was Queen for three years, but her downfall came about when she fell out with Cromwell and bore Henry a stillborn son. (Additionally, this child was deformed, which was thought to mean punishment upon his sinful parents.) Cromwell and Henry planned to accuse Anne of affairs with men she clearly had no knowledge of, including her brother, George Boleyn. She was innocent of the charges, and only one of the men accused admitted to having relations with her, following his torture. On 19th May, 1536, Anne was executed on Tower Green, beheaded with a sword, in the French fashion, rather than in English. She prayed “God Save The King” at her death.